An engineering student’s Blog

” …All of this. All of this was for nothing – unless we go to the stars.” – Infection, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski


The DIRECT team unvieled the 3rd and best itteration of thier exploration alternative architecture at this years International Space Developement Conference in Orlando this weekend.  Expect thier website with the whole story to be updated within a few days and a new thread at NASAspaceflight forums to follow soon.  Goodluck DIRECT team, may the best course of action be selected at NASA going foward.

Enjoy the video introducing the concept on youtube here:


Filed under: Space

Timing is everything

Obama’s administration has ordered a 90-day review of the situation at NASA with the hope of chosing the best way to move our space exploration and science foward.  A likely topic on the table is which mission architecture and space launch vehicles will get the job done – cheaper, better & faster?  

Its at this time – before the fact finding and investigating begins – that a new article appears explaining how NASA attempted to discredit the DIRECT  shuttle derived Jupiter launch vehicle proposal to replace the constellation programs Ares I and V rockets.  The fundamentals are pretty straight foward, and the engineers working on the proposal have done a lot of work to nail down the details.  It must have ticked quite a few of them off when NASA managers defending Ares tried to pull a fast one and misrepresent the DIRECT plan in thier official and initially internal analysis.

Get the whole story a where David Harris has an article on the subject, and download the DIRECT teams official rebuttal of the bogus 2007 NASA ‘analysis’ 

According to NASAspaceflight, “DIRECT anticipates being heavily involved in the upcoming Blue Ribbon review for human space flight – which will include an evaluation on NASA’s current exploration direction – and the team will be presenting their latest proposals at the Orlando ISDC conference at the end of May and will also have representatives there able to discuss the latest evolutions of the proposal.”

Lets hope NASA gets it right this time. 

Filed under: Space

Ares I vs Ares III

Jupiter Direct update

Jupiter Directs latest itteration of a replacement for the shuttle will look something like the space shuttles external tank with 3 RS-25Cs under it ( the same engines that have reliable taken the space shuttle to orbit without fail, SSME – space shuttle main engines ), 2 current & unmodified 4 segment SRBs at the sides in the traditional configuration and a payload fairing or shroud covering the Crew Exploration Vehicle.  This is the J-130 or Ares III.  And if given a green light by the new NASA administrator could be ready to go far sooner, a whole 5 years sooner than the Ares I, and by saving billions of dolars by eliminating the need for expensive new engine development programs, or re-engineering RS-68s for man-rated flight, its can put the constellation program and the VSE back on schedule.

Heres the new chart provided by the DIRECT team

Jupiter Direct proposal - integrated master schedule

Notice the IOC ( initial operational capability ) of the Ares I vs the IOC of the J-130 ( Ares III ) is in 2017 by current NASA estimates, a full 7 years after they expect to retire the space shuttle – while the IOC for the J-130 is before the end of 2012, just 2 years post shuttle retirement.  Even if the delays can be reduced and the original development scheduel for the Ares I is attained it’ll still be a 5 year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle and the launch of a new vehicle.  Also notice how the Ares V isn’t even on the Map – it couldnt even be compared.  Its replaced by the J-246, or Ares IV with an IOC of 2016 and FOC or Full operational capability before the end of 2017.  Thats right – we can be on the moon before the Ares I is even ready to ship cargo and crew to low earth orbit if we went with the Jupiter Direct proposal.  And it would save thousands of jobs across 3 states by almost eliminating the shuttle-gap and going with a real shuttle derived launch vehicle that fully utilizes known practices, skill sets, infrastructure and hardware.

Are the words – no contest – useful here?



Filed under: Space

The Dream is alive and well

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. “

– Thomas Jefferson


My two year old son loves this, “Mars movie” he calls it.  Well at least the parts with the rockets!  The future belongs to them.

“The Case For Mars” by Dr. Robert Zubrin is recommended reading for anybody interested in the future of human spaceflight.

Enjoy The Mars Underground

Filed under: Mars, Space

Jupiter Direct update

A new version maybe worked out and released soon – one that relies more heavily on space shuttle derivatives.
Using currently man rated and tested engines the new plan if opted by NASA would give us a vehicle capable of delivering crew and cargo to the ISS even sooner by using 3 SSME( space shuttle main engines ) instead of the Delta vehicles RS-68 (2) which would not work due to base heating by the Solid rocket boosters. The only way they could use RS-68s is if an entirely new regenerative nozzle were engineered and man rated cost millions of dolars and which the airforce is not inclined to do without this specific demand from NASA. By going with the shuttles main engines this saves in developement cost and is potentially safer than developing and testing a brand spanking new rocket engine.

The current iteration will be a J-130 with 3 SSMEs to get the orion CEV to the International Space Station and with a Delta IV Heavy Derived upperstage a lunar flyby mission can be launched. Secondly by using SSMEs in the core stage the can use RL-10s on the Jupiter Earth Departure Stage another already man rated and extensibly tested engine reducing developement cost further and allowing a manned Lunar mission as early as 2015 depending on the developement time needed for the LSAM ( lunar surface access module ) the Altair. Instead of the 2020 date given for the as of yet undesigned, unworked and untested Ares V heavy lifter. Using RL-10s allow developement funding and time to be spent on more science missions insetad of developing the new J-2X engines that would be required for the Ares I and Ares V upperstages. Funding that could go towards a Near Earth Object or Mars Sample Return mission. Or both. More science from NASA, how about that? Going with the Jupiter direct proposal could now reduce the impending shuttle gap – the time between shuttle retirement in 2010(NEXT YEAR) and the first crewed flight to the ISS on an Ares I – from 2017 on an already overbudgetted and delayed Ares I to 2012 aboard a J-130( or an Ares III if youre so inclined ) thats a 5-7 year gap reduced to 2 if the new NASA administrator investigates the Jupiter proposal and gived it a green light now.

Itll also preserve thousands of Florida, Alabama and Texas hightech jobs – maybe even a politically good thing to do, politics AND space given a win – win – choice, How about that?

Jupiter Direct v2.0 PDF without the new improvements

From the forums




Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Space

Discovery looks good to go

The ET is fueled, the crew is aboard, the hatch is closed and the skies are clear. Go Discovery!

Filed under: Space

Discovery Launch for tonight scrubbed

The next launch window begins at 849pm and ends at 9pm if they can fix the LH2 leak and fuel the ET by tomarow night.

Strange thing – my first impression with all of the delays is that these things are falling appart and its a good thing theyre being retired but Im not sure this is historically a long setback.  Maybe they’re used to these sort of things at NASA.  I suppose launching a rocket is not at all like unparking a car.  (:

UPDATE :: Taken from spaceflight now

2245 GMT (6:45 p.m. EDT)

The post-scrub press conference is underway at the Kennedy Space Center.The next launch opportunity is being targeted for no earlier than Sunday, with a liftoff time of 7:43 p.m. EDT.

The leak was found near the end of fueling space shuttle Discovery’s external tank this afternoon in the gaseous hydrogen venting system. Troubleshooting and efforts to cycle valve in the system failed to fix the leak. Engineers are sure there is a hardware problem, most likely on the launch pad-side of the interface.

The tank has been drained of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen following the scrub. A 20-hour inerting of the tank must be performed before technicians can get their hands on the hardware.

More meetings are planned for tomorrow to assess the schedule.

We’ll have a full story from the news conference later today.

Filed under: Space

Shift happends

Found this video at the JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog 

Its not exactly News – was posted November of last year – but still EYE OPENING and highly recommended that you watch it and meditate on it if you have a minute.   Me I dont have a minute and this is probably going to be my last post in a while – vector calculus is kicking my ass and I have a test tomarow morning.  If I didnt I would be entertaining the idea of driving up to see the shuttle launch tonight at 920pm – but I cant.  Maybe will go to Miami beach and hope theres no clouds.  Sad – yeah I know – maybe we’ll just watch it on NASA TV or and look out the window (: will have mission coverage from 430pm including an interview with Astronaut Leroy Chiao and Damaris Sarria, Coalition Advisory Board Member and aspiring astronaut.

Now back to studying


UPDATE :: also available in v2.0 && v3.0

Filed under: Economics, Education, Science, Space

The Change We Need

This is taken directly from the premier issue of the Mars Society’s official journal, the Mars Quarterly.

The Change We Need

As the year 2008 moves toward its close, those of us concerned with the human future in space are faced with both a crisis and an opportunity. On the one hand, the situation appears to be dismal. The U.S. budget deficit is running at a record level of $500 billion this year, with all signs pointing toward an incredible trillion dollar red-ink blowout next year. Our new President, while not an outspoken opponent of the space program, has no track record of support for it either. So, if budgets need to be lashed, NASA – particularly the Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration – could easily end up on the block. This is all the more the case since NASA
unwisely chose to devolve the VSE from its original formulation as Moon-Mars-and beyond vision to a Moon only program, thereby depriving it of all popular support or scientific justification.

On the other hand, the displacement of the Bush crowd from policy making positions provides an opportunity to reformulate the space program into something much better than the Lunar dead-end that the VSE had become. Spending the next generation working on an “Apollo on geriatrics” return to the Moon would have been an enormous waste. Now we have a chance to escape that fate. During the election campaign, Barack Obama criticized the American space program, saying it was no longer inspiring people the way it had done in the 1960s. His point is well taken. But is the answer for an uninspiring space program cancellation, or transformation? Do we simply abandon the timid goal of a return to the Moon, or bravely embrace the challenge of humans to Mars?

Calling for the initiation of a bold space program in the face of current economic crisis may seem totally unrealistic, but the fact of the matter is that it is in the toughest of times that the greatest of deeds have been done. It was the Lincoln administration, faced with a rebellion that threatened to destroy the nation, that initiated the visionary project of building the transcontinental railroad. It was the Roosevelt administration, faced with a fascist onslaught to enslave humanity, which initiated the greatest scientific mobilization the world had ever seen. It was the Kennedy administration, faced with imminent threat of nuclear war, that launched us on our path to the Moon. With respect to the space program, the situation remains as it has for the past three decades. NASA needs a goal, and that goal should be humans to Mars. This is so, because Mars is where the science is, it is where the challenge is, and it is where the future is. But with respect to the nation, the issue has reached its critical moment.

We are faced with, as Obama has said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the fierce urgency of now.” Because now is the time when we decide whether we are going to rise to the occasion or not. Is the dream of an unbounded future going to live, or will it die, snuffed out by a defeatist acceptance of the age of limits?

“Do not go softly into that good night.”

It is in times of darkness that the torch needs to be lit. It is in times of fear that the flag needs to be raised. A humans to Mars program would help mobilize our economy, at a time when it needs to be mobilized, and inspire millions of youth to develop their minds. But it would do more than that. It would raise the flag, the flag of courage, and hope, and the pioneer spirit. It would say to the world, and to ourselves, that we will not accept defeat. That we remain a nation whose great deeds will continue to be celebrated in newspapers, and not just in museums. That we as a nation are not old, but young; that we are living not at the end of our history, but at its beginning. It would say, in no uncertain terms: “Yes we can.”

That’s the change we need.

Robert Zubrin is the President of the Mars Society.


Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Space, , , , , , , ,

Transparent Stimulation, check. Economic Crisis as distraction, check.

This website will detail the history and application of the recently signed into law, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

I’ve been waiting for some time now in a sort of “show me” mood since the election. Its my humble opinion that this is a step in the right direction. And regardless of the outcome of the political efforts to reach across the aisle and work with minority republicans, “bipartisanship”, it showed, I think, a degree of maturity I have not seen in a while. Even if they made dozens of concessions to please republicans including a large tilt towards a still unproven method of stimulus – 288 billion in tax relief – in exchange for a less than hand full of GOP votes, that is even if it didn’t work as well as democrats and the administration had hoped, it may have prevented the moral justification to fillibuster and prevented the bill from being signed within the first 3 weeks of the administration. The only tax relief I was looking for was an expanded tax credit for new home buyers since I plan on buying my first house this year, originally proposed to be 15000 was trimmed, or should I say HACKED, to 8000, it was previously 7500. But hey, I was going to buy a house weather or not there was a tax encentive for it. Not exactly proof of the ineffectiveness of tax relief but here we are. Its not going to be the deciding factor of people entering the market for a new, or thier first house.

Now if the administration can get to work on the housing and financial elements of the economic crisis while this stimulus act works to keep the ship above water, things should work out. I’m still waiting for the administration to name the new NASA chief and see how theyre going to change things in the space program. I hope – they have a look at the Mars Direct plan or derivatives of it to begin the manned exploration of the red planet and inspire a new generation of explorers, scientist and engineers as the Apollo program did. Its been said that for every dolar invested in the space program the economy gets 7 or 8 back, if thats not stimulus Ill eat this keyboard. Obama doesnt need to go far to ask his new Secretary of Energy about the benifits for investing more in science, basic research and an inspiring, ambitious space program.

Im currently reading “The Case for Mars” by Robert Zubrin. And I’m again simultaneously ashamed and delighted. Ashamed I have not picked up this book before – published in 1996 – it has changed a lot of how a Mission to Mars would be effectively formulated. And delighted at the simplicity and practical nature of the plan – the idea is, as I currently understand it, to go the way all exploration has been effectively done, by living off of the land and radically reducing the cost of the mission by engineering the solutions needed to utilize the Mars environment rather than shipping everything needed for the mission with you. Rocket fuel, water, essentially all of the raw materials required by a technologically advanced settlement is all there on the red planet just waiting to be used by those with the skills and knowledge needed to engineer the solutions.

From the Preface :: “The key to this plan is the mission’s ability to use Mars-native resources to make its return propellant and much of its consumables on the surface of the planet itself. It is the richness of Mars that makes the Red Planet not only desireable, but attainable.”

I highly recommend the book so far to anyone interested in space exploration.

Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Science, Space



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